12th April. A glorious spring day. The day after my favourite date of all time – 11th April. Well, 11th April, 1977! Suffice to say, the 1977 version has dwarfed any other since and yesterday was no different. I suppose it snowed … A sad weekend, much of it spent watching – and listening to – the tributes in memory of The Duke of Edinburgh following his death on Friday. Phil The Greek, Pop used to call him.
I made a point of driving into town, on Saturday morning, to buy newspapers for Becca and Manny, for posterity. They, each, have a ‘school’ trunk which holds their history, I suppose; everything sentimental such as their first shoes, favourite toys, books etc but, also, newspapers marking important events throughout their lives. Princess Diana’s death, for example, and the Millennium to name but two. One day, I hope they will appreciate the value of such mementos. How I would have loved my unsentimental mother to have done the same for me …
Throughout the years, I am frequently questioned as to why I am purchasing two copies of The Times along with two copies of The Telegraph, as though I have lost the plot. Perhaps, but it is proving to be an increasingly expensive hobby, that’s for sure! As on Saturday, I can spend some time choosing my favourite photographs and headlines in tribute and, more often than not, they are those of the aforementioned. The front page of the tabloids is prone to juxtaposing trivial news alongside said historic event and I can’t think of anything worse than having a wonderful image of Prince Philip in his military attire with any mention of Nicola Sturgeon in the same stratosphere, let alone below!
Still in Tesco – how that hideous shop has the monopoly in St Andrews, I shall never know – as I waited in line at the checkout, sadly, I was privy to the conversation of the customer before me and the lady serving (in polite terms!). I couldn’t believe my ears as both, openly, muttered about the extended television coverage following the death of Prince Philip. No Coronation Street or the usual sub-intelligent drivel, she said she was forced to go to ‘her bed’ at 8pm while he? Well, aghast, I could only see his lips move as my ears refused to register in an attempt at self-preservation – or, rather, as a means to avert self-combustion! The degree of ignorance is incomprehensible; insufferable, even. How can people be so insular? So small-town? So insensitive? Moreover, there is no hesitancy in voicing their feelings, as though they are understandable; the norm! Perhaps the fact that the BBC enabled an online complaints page for they and their fellow ignoramuses, inviting them to convey their objections, encouraged such disrespect. The fact that said page was rapidly removed, following a deserved uproar, does nothing to negate the part played by the channel of ‘woke’.
Photographs and memories. Truly priceless. My favourite is the black and white image of him – taken from behind – as he walked away following his final salute to the Royal Marines on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace. That day, 2nd August 2017, marked his last engagement before retiring. Pouring with rain, the 96-year-old was, characteristically, undeterred and, duty done, the camera caught the moment when, striding away in his raincoat, he lifted his bowler hat aloft in his gesture of farewell. So evocative and, now, so poignant.
I had read his remarkable story but seeing the old footage only served as a reminder of how much we have lost in this giant of a man. His strength and bravery in negotiating a difficult childhood bereft of parents and home can never be underestimated. Not in his nature to feel sorry for himself, he just got on with it and thus proved his attitude to life. So dashing and debonair, his looks only matched his intelligence and inquiring mind but it was his sense of humour which defined him; his sense of fun; that twinkle. ‘Naughty but never nasty’, in the words of his old headmaster, Kurt Hahn, his friend Gyles Brandreth remembers him as ‘the best of company – and the best of men’. That’s the thing, nobody has a bad word to say about him. Whether prince or pauper, it made no difference to him. Particularly moving were the memories of George Bowman, a former scrap dealer, who enjoyed a 40-year friendship with The Duke borne of their shared passion for carriage driving. He wiped away tears as he recalled, ‘He always treated me with great respect and treated me as an equal. And that’s what I admired about him … He was a great man.’ A kind one, too, and, for his family, very much someone to whom they could go with a problem – big or small – and he would listen before offering his help. My goodness, who doesn’t need a Prince Philip in one’s life! Fate was kind to thirteen-year-old Princess Elizabeth all these years ago at Dartmouth College but, in her own words, ‘Grief is the price we pay for love.’. Eighty-two years on from that first meeting in 1939, her pain must be immense.
‘You know it is going to happen but you are never really ready.’ The words of Princess Anne to which so many can relate. The loss of a parent hurts no matter how prepared – and the sadness never really abates. Music, in particular, can recall the pain in an instant.
‘I miss my mother and father and grandfather. That feeling continues for all time, even at 100. Most people do.’
Even Captain Tom … and how lovely that he was man enough to admit it! Beside his bed in Windsor Castle, apparently Prince Philip kept two photographs: one of the Queen and the other of his mother. A bond unbroken.
Prince Harry is here, now, preparing to walk behind his grandfather’s coffin on Saturday alongside his father and brother. Poignantly, the grandfather who shared with his now estranged grandsons the hardest walk of their lives. Harry’s presence will require added courage, on his part, as he negotiates the hurt he has caused his family amidst the overwhelming sadness of their loss. Grief can prompt forgiveness but it can, also, deepen the wound …
Today, he and William paid tribute to the man they called ‘Grandpa’, separately, and very differently. William’s words, while heartfelt, spoke of service, guidance and being ‘lucky’ for his ‘enduring presence’; grateful for the kindness he showed his wife, and for the ‘special memories my children will always have of their great-grandpa coming to collect them in his carriage’, he, of course, referenced his ‘mischievous sense of humour!’. The ending, however, could not have been more pointed:
‘Catherine and I will continue to do what he would have wanted and will support the Queen in the years ahead. I will miss my Grandpa, but I know he would want us to get on with the job.’
I repeat, grief can, also, deepen the wound.
As for Harry … For all the anger one feels for him – and the enormous disappointment – one cannot help but be touched by his tribute to his grandpa, some of which I quote:
‘But to me, like many of you who have lost a loved one or grandparent over the pain of this past year, he was my grandpa: master of the barbecue, legend of banter, and cheeky right ’til the end.’
‘While I could go on, I know that right now he would say to all of us, beer in hand, “Oh, do get on with it!”‘
‘So, on that note, Grandpa, thank you for your service, your dedication to Granny, and for always being yourself.’
He signed off with the words, ‘Per Mare, Per Terram’, the motto of the Royal Marines of whom Prince Philip was Captain General for 64 years before, proudly, handing the role on to his grandson. Allegedly, his words, then: ‘Don’t cock it up!’.
Well, Harry certainly seems to have done just that but for a grandson who has got it so wrong, his words, in memory of his beloved grandfather, could not have been more right …
‘A family is a risky venture because, the greater the love, the greater the loss … That’s the trade-off. But I’ll take it all.’
This is Trish, signing off.